Meet Your Host
My taste has been international from the beginning. Born in Hollywood, I live in a 1920s house with a neighbor from Calcutta on one side and, on the other, Koreans who line their garden with kimchi pots.
My own garden contains a Oaxacan avocado tree, kaffir and Mexican limes, small, slow-growing Indian curry leaf trees, a bushy guaje plant with edible pods, epazote, verdolagas, assorted chiles and much more. Koreatown is close by, and I can almost walk to the kosher shops along Fairfax Avenue.
My kitchen is stocked with Indian spices, Mexican dried chiles., Thai and Indonesian sauces, chocolate and mole pastes from Oaxaca, olive oils from Chile and Argentina and cook pots from everywhere I've traveled.
I'm never happier than when sipping rich coffee in a café in Buenos Aires, riding about with my favorite rickshaw driver and restaurant guide in Chennai or wandering along some shady street deep in East Los Angeles, where I've been told there's a great taco stand. But I'm a great fan of plain, simple food too. After all, my mother came from Dubuque, Iowa. And it was she who taught me to cook.
Food is my profession. For many years, I wrote food features, restaurant reviews and travel articles for The Los Angeles Times. In 2004, I won a James Beard award for an article on mezcal in Oaxaca, and I was nominated previously for a Beard award for an article on cooking with Chinese medicinal herbs.
I've also written for Bon Appetit, Saveur and Cuisine magazines and I've produced five cookbooks. These are "Cooking California Style" and "Good Bread," both published by Macmillan; "Mexican Cookery" published in two editions by HP Books, "Barbara Hansen's Taste of Southeast Asia," published by HP, and "Southeast Asian Cooking," published by Fisher Books.
"Mexican Cookery" became a phenomenal best seller. It's now out of print, but I still receive requests for copies and letters from Mexican-Americans telling me I've captured the flavor of their mothers' cooking. Awards may be gratifying, but I've never received a higher compliment than that. --Barbara Hansen